In the jungle called Lagos


Lekan Sote

Lagos is not just the place of the “indecency, lies and immoral acts of a typically rustic, countryside lady who went to Lagos and became sophisticated” as chronicled in Niyi Oniororo’s novel, Lagos Is A Wicked Place, the stuff of Onitsha Market Literature that Chinua Achebe described as “chronicles of social problems of a somewhat mixed-up, but dynamic, even brash, modernising community.”

Lagos is indeed a wicked place, though this is not a critique of Oniororo’s turns of phrases, metaphors, suspense, irony and didactic preachments. It’s about the Lagos that former President Olusegun Obasanjo disdainfully described as a “concrete jungle.”

Obasanjo said Lagos (with its chaos of ill-maintained roads, snarling traffic, urban slum, inadequacy of pipe-borne water, mammoth trash, clogged drainages, flood, and crimes) is unfit for sane people to live in.

A reminder of the zoo story that the leader of the separatist Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, told about Nigeria. While Obasanjo focuses on the socio-economic life of Lagos, Kanu draws attention to the iniquities of the Nigerian state.

As Christmas approaches, many violent attacks are visited in the Lagos metropolis: From stripping of side mirrors, lights, wipers and batteries from cars parked on the streets overnight to smashing of windows and windscreens of cars in a traffic jam.

An amateur video of a visibly shaken Tope Mark-Odigie, co-anchor of Your View, the all-women morning talk show on Nigeria’s Television Continental, should scare anyone from living in Lagos. And if you consider yourself sane, you would agree with Obasanjo that Lagos is not the place to be.

Following is a narrative from Tope on how she was attacked by traffic hoodlums and thieves, “On the Ketu Bridge, from Third Mainland (Bridge) that takes you to 7-Up (Bottling Company), I got robbed. (They) damaged my car…

“They were hitting the car (saying) I should ‘wind down, wind down, wind down….’ They broke the side glass (She probably meant the window on the driver’s side), and caused a little bit of injury on my hand….”

Though she didn’t quite insinuate that the robbery was in retaliation for what she had said on “Your View,” she disclosed, “I had reported (that) somebody got robbed in that place on Wednesday… I said we need to have more security presence there…

“And they were young boys. (They) came to the side of the car… I was able to swerve left and right… We can’t afford (to experience) this. Everywhere there’s traffic, there’s a risk to our lives. And the government needs to do much than this….”

Episodes like this routinely occur in places like Ketu Bridge, Maryland Tunnel, Fadeyi Bus Stop on Ikorodu Road, Iyana Ipaja Roundabout, Western Avenue in Surulere and Lekki Tollgate to a little beyond Victoria Garden City, to weary and tired commuters who are returning home from their dreary 9-to-5 jobs.

As a veteran of these attacks, near the Cricket Pitch of Tafawa Balewa Square, on the approach to Allen Roundabout in Ikeja, Iyana Ipaja Roundabout in Alimosho Local Government Area and at work at Oregun, near Ikeja, one can tell how scary it is to be accosted by hoodlums.

Someone describes Tope’s experience as a commemoration of the anniversary of #EndSARS of 2020: Which justifies the theory that these hoodlums are waging a class war but against equally struggling compatriots whom they assume are their betters economically.

These hoodlums are mostly youths that have been described as the uneducated and economically disenfranchised wing of the #EndSARS vanguard. And there is every need to meaningfully engage them.

To borrow the current phrase bandied about by public intellectuals in Nigeria, these hoodlums are weaponising the traffic holdups to carry out wanton attacks against commuters in the Lagos metropolis.

Unfortunately, one man who can never avoid blame for the traffic holdups in Lagos, and the consequent violence that occurs in the traffic holdups, is the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).

He is accused of being the military Head of State who ordered the termination of the contract for the construction of the Lagos Metroline initiated by former Governor Lateef Jakande to move Lagos commuters by train.

Interestingly, President Buhari has never tried to deny or confirm this accusation attributed to his first coming (as a military ruler of Nigeria). Logicians argue or deduce that silence is acquiescence.

A cynical e-flyer making the rounds on social media lists six ways to avoid Lagos traffic: Get a bike, buy a helicopter, be a witch and fly about, drive only between 11pm and 4am, don’t come to Lagos or become a governor!

Though some of the suggestions may sound extreme, they might just be the smartest, if expensive, ways to avoid encounters with hoodlums and petty thieves, whose criminal activities are facilitated by the traffic holdups of the Lagos metropolis.

Though Section 215(4) of Nigeria’s Constitution, which requires a Commissioner of Police to seek clearance from the President before obeying the directives of a Governor, proves that Governors are not the chief security officers of their states, it is expedient for Governors to do something to curtail insecurity in their states. As you know, all politics is local, at the end of the day.

Though governors have no direct control over the police, traffic wardens and other federal security agencies, nearly all of them have breached Paragraph 45 of the Federal Exclusive List in Part 1 of the Second Schedule of the Constitution.

As they have used state funds to provide equipment and pay allowances to men of these federal agencies, they might as well take advantage of their own generosity by further getting the security agencies to firmly secure their states.

As governors chair state security committees, it should not be too difficult for Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to mobilise security agencies to halt the menace of hoodlums attacking commuters in Lagos traffic.

Lagos Neighborhood Safety Corps, a uniformed security agency established by a law of the Lagos State House of Assembly, to assist the police and other security agencies to maintain law and order should be fully engaged to deter and apprehend whoever intimidates commuters in the Lagos metropolis.

Maybe it’s time to revisit the idea of state police because it can significantly reduce the response time to acts prejudicial to public safety, public order, public defence, and the protection of rights and freedom of other persons as enumerated in Section 45(1) of the 1999 Constitution.

To borrow a suggestion from former Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, now Minister for Works and Housing, Nigeria should seize the moment and take advantage of the nationwide insecurity to do the needful by decentralising decisions and actions to swiftly contain insecurity.

This is how other citizens, more vulnerable than public figure Tope, can feel that the security of their lives and properties is guaranteed by government. Citizens should not have to be paranoid and fearful whenever they step out of their homes into the streets of Lagos metropolis.

Paranoia is the stuff of a city of anomie as depicted in Hotel Rwanda, the docu-drama of life in a lawless Rwanda where warlords held sway in the absence of an effective state Leviathan that is supposed to maintain law and order.

Maybe an early completion of the Lagos Metroline should reduce the anguish of Lagos commuters.


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